Theses on the Fall of Civilization
or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Coming Collapse
from Species Traitor #2
“Civilization, synonym of Capital, Technology and the Modern World, called Leviathan by Hobbes and Western Spirit by Turner, is as racked by decomposition as any earlier Leviathan. But Civilization is not one Leviathan among many. It is The One. Its final decomposition is Leviathan’s end. After twenty centuries of stony sleep vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, the sleeper is about to wake to the cadences of a long-forgotten music or to the eternal silence of death without a morrow.”
-Fredy Perlman, Against His-Story, Against Leviathan
Revolutionary theory, aimed at dismantling either the State or the whole of civilization, is plagued by authoritative delusions. The worst and best case scenarios are played out as absolute truths, while it seems obvious that we can’t predict the future, only influence it. I hold to the notion that civilization will inevitably fall, although, I can’t say when or how, or even for sure. The two possibilities for this seem to be either external or internal based, although each is a huge range of potential scenarios. I can’t pretend to know more than a fraction, and while it can be an interesting mind game, it may never be more than that.
To me, it seems the most commonly held perceptions towards this notion are based off; a catastrophic excess spawning disaster (ecological or, possibly, technological), a conscious revolt or refusal, or a semi-conscious ‘final shove’ (enacted by a percentage of the population).
The possibility of collapse from ecological excess is quite compelling. It becomes hard to envision anything short of catastrophe stopping the civilized disaster. In some cases, the best we can do is prepare for this (although the practice should be done regularly). We could dwell on the ways this may play out, or even project, based on previous occurrences, but that alone offers little to the extended Society. Even if it seems pointless or exhausted, or the State may kill itself off, a desire to live free of civilization should enact response. We have no obligations, but it seems to make sense that regardless of outcomes, we should always resist, and at least try to be a cog in the mega-machine.
It seems that optimism in the fall of civilization is increasingly rare as the State extends its bounds to give the illusion of more control and more coercive power. It is true, and should never be overlooked, that the State is very powerful. We are not facing an easy enemy, or despite misconceptions, one that would flutter away with the ease of a thought (which seems to be a crucial starting point, but no ends in itself). We are facing a very brutal and coercive warring State, one that has shown that it does not take to opposition lightly. This is the reality of our current context. There should be no candy coating of the fact that we are, and have always been, in a constant clash with ‘the powers that be’. This is a war, not one we are waging, but one in which we refuse to be defeated, where we refuse to be slaves, and our lives are at stake.
This is civilization against everything else on the planet. Such things as class war, race war, civil war, and so on are merely functions within it, little blurbs to keep attention away from the real source of all oppression. This isn’t to say these things don’t exist, it doesn’t take much to see the effects of the class and race war within westernized societies, but to ‘wage’ these are to fight on false fronts: futile battles of the defeated. The fact that thousands of poor, college educated, and middle class workerists are urging the need for a ‘class war’ is ignoring the fact that the ruling class has already declared and won that war from their inception. Exploitation of workers is very real, but will never gain ground beyond the enemies’ lines as the systems of work, production and other civilized vices continue.
The reality of this war, and especially methods of attack are not going to be the center of discussion in this essay (while some points make arise). These are things that are not set in stone and continually flow to meet the needs of those who seek to overcome the institutions of power that enslaves them. However, I will speak of the reasoning behind my optimism towards the fall of civilization.
Despite what the warring State will propagandize, it seeks to extend its military and coercive powers, not because it is furthering its ‘absolute control’, but because it recognizes its futility. It seems that our current State so boldly wears the armor of ‘its history’ so that it may grant the illusion that because ‘WE’ (the imaginary collective) have gotten to this stage of Progress, ‘WE’ posses the ability to reinforce that progression. The current State would like us to believe that it is what has brought it here, that it doesn’t wear another State’s armor, but that its armor is its own, and it has produced it. This simply isn’t the case, and this only gives more potential strength to the outcome of a “final shove”.
As with the domesticated within societies which initially moved away from a self-sufficient mode of gathering and hunting what existed, into a State dependent on its own products: those in ‘power’ also lost the ability to become self sufficient. Whereas previous stages were ‘more able’ to go back to previous lifestyles, those who followed would become further alienated from that previous way of life, as they were reared completely in a different mode of substance, and would be more concerned with progressing their technique than holding onto increasingly ‘useless’ knowledge of past ‘ways’. To put it simply, the State has been moving on and isn’t looking back. To the continuation of power, this means more devotion to improving the functioning of the State. This naturally carries the assumption that things will go as ‘planned’ (or as the religious would say, ‘pre-determined’).
It should go without saying, that societies of smaller scale and relatively more easily obtained technology, were more able to pick up and more on, or basically, rebuild their society. This is where our State comes into play. We are constantly at a higher point of ‘progression’ and thus alienation; this is the weak spot of the current condition. Our ability to produce at a level necessary to maintain our power structure has become reliant upon our technological, globalized infrastructure. Our over infatuation with the reliance on technology to help build a coming utopia, has left us more in its hands than our own. The State is reliant upon that very technological infrastructure to perform its most basic functions. This can be most easily seen in the role technological ‘advancement’ has had in globalizing the State. It is molded to its current condition and business as usual.
If something were to impair that infrastructure to function (such was the prospect with the millennium bug, a sign that a slight miscalculation could potentially halt the mega-machine), our civilization no longer posses the ability and tolerance to rebuild itself. This is the result of technological advancement and reliance, especially in the realm of a ‘global economy.’ This is the reason why it is more important than ever for the State to maintain the illusion of absolute control, and also my basis for optimism that a severe blow to the current infrastructure could be the final one to civilization. If its very basis was to be shaken, we don’t posses the ability to rebuild it in a timely enough manner to keep up the façade of functioning.
I don’t doubt for a minute that a great many domesticates will hold dearly to the death trip civilization is. When civilization does fall there can be telling what may happen. There could be a ‘Mad Max’-esque period, or may not happen, I don’t really know. I feel many may try to sustain themselves off the remnants of civilized living (i.e., canned foods, etc.), there may even be an attempt to maintain current power structures based on unstable food supplies. In such a case, it seems power structures would exist as long as the supplies.
After the fall, I don’t doubt that there will be those who refuse to accept the fate of their excessive lifestyles. In many cases, there are few options aside from accepting and moving on. For them, such aspects as mutual aid and permaculture become vital. It seems to take little imagination to see the ‘karma-tic’ fate the power mongers hold. Some may try to sustain their ‘way of death’ via alternate power sources, but what will that be compared to how things are now, and it’s questionable if there are even any that can hold up on their own. I’m more optimistic that things will find a balance in time and I refuse any bouts of ‘callousness’ that might be granted towards the possibilities that I see. I have no authoritarian vision (or desire for one) for ways of ‘redistributing the wealth’ or some other leftist pipe dream. I see the fall of civilization to be inevitable, and thus, work to both brace for collapse and push for it, and for doing so I have no apologies.